Monday, 21 February 2011

Latest theatre review from Vidar Hjardeng

Review of audio described performance of Matilda at RSC’s Courtyard Theatre Saturday 29 January 2011 – from Vidar Hjardeng

This year the RSC’s Christmas show at the Courtyard Theatre was a production of Roald Dahl’s story, Matilda, adapted as a musical, with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin.

The heroine, Matilda Wormwood is an incredibly intelligent 5 year old girl who lives at home with her parents and older brother Michael. Despite her age, small size and the complete disregard of her parents, Matilda is amazingly mature and self confident, and not aware of how unusual she actually is. On this occasion Matilda was brilliantly played by Kerry Ingram (one of 3 girls to take her part during the run).

On the ever helpful pre-show touch tour, describer Julia Grundy, accompanied by Jackie a theatre volunteer, showed us what amounted to a theme for the set, namely building blocks and letters. An image of these building blocks piled higgledy piggledy on top of each other, went all the way over the top of the stage. Julia described the different sizes and colours – children’s blocks, Scrabble tiles and some with Victorian style letters and others with simplistic felt pen lettering. The word ‘Matilda’ was spelt out among the blocks across the top of the stage and at times these letters of her name lit up. We were also able to inspect the back wall and floor of the stage, which looked as if they were made from blue square blocks of wood, fitted neatly together with some squares in the back wall opening up as windows, and in the floor there were trap doors through which school desks and chairs, rose up during the show. These were on stage, during our touch tour where we also made aware of the top gallery where a band would be playing during the performance. The scenery at the back of the set was chiefly painted on flat cut-outs which were slid in, and just like the floor and back walls the theme was little box-like shapes piled on top of each other in crooked heaps.

Thanks to the pre-show notes available on the website and reprised ‘live’ 15 minutes before curtain-up, we were told all about the set, character and costumes and other important information, such as the use of props to represent different places in the story, eg at the start of the show there were 2 long tables covered with white cloths decorated with lots of small black letters. During the play these represented party tables, a hospital bed, and even an altar.

During the pre-show notes we were learnt that the costumes (some of which we were available for inspection on the touch tour) reflected the designs in Road Dahl’s original book, illustrated by Quentin Blake, and we were given details of other locations such as the Wormwood’s sitting room, the library and the school.

It certainly was a production for all the family and the teenagers who accompanied me were very happy to be reminded of their early childhood. At the end of the matinee, as we handed back the headsets, I wasn’t at all surprised to overhear several people saying that they felt that it had been the best Christmas/New Year production staged by the RSC, to date. Indeed, it was great that this, the last show at the Courtyard Theatre which I to have say I shall personally miss, was such a huge success!

The RSC’s next audio described show will be at their new theatre, and will be a reprise of last year’s highly acclaimed, King Lear on the evening of Friday 25 February 2011, and details of how to book concessionary tickets, headsets and places on the touch tour, as well as other useful information can be found by ringing the box office on 0844 800 1110.

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